Stand Up. Speak Up. It’s Your Turn.
I’m on the side of the teachers. There’s no debate about that, just as there is no debate that Manchester teachers deserved a fair contract. I was a teacher and I know from experience the critical role teachers play in guiding the lives of young people. Nothing is more important to the future of a community than the proper rearing of our kids.
Since Queen City kids are the future of our community, teachers are the future of our community, too, as no one aside from parents does more to mold the lives of young people. With more and more kids lacking proper parenting due to societal change, teachers assume an even more important role in their lives and the life of our community.
I know Mayor Ted Gatsas. I think of him as a friend. Gatsas twice vetoed the vote by the Board of Aldermen approving the teachers’ contract as the City Charter requires the mayor to uphold the tax cap. Believing the contract might violate the cap in the future, he felt duty-bound to give it a thumbs down.
I respect Mayor Gatsas’ decision, based as it is on his principles. However, if I was serving on the Board, I’d have voted for the contract and to override the veto. This contract will yield significant savings due to the concessions teachers made in their health plan, which will stop the federal government from imposing Obamacare’s “Cadillac Tax.” Those future savings will allow the City to remain within the tax cap.
My alderman Keith Hirschmann is another person I consider a friend. Unfortunately, Alderman Hirschmann voted against approving the teachers’ contract and to uphold the Mayor’s veto the first time the contract came before the Board. He then abstained from voting when the contract was reconsidered by the Board, and abstained again when Mayor Gatsas vetoed the vote approving the contract. Hirschmann’s earlier votes failed to serve the best interests not only of the kids and parents of Ward 12, but those of the entire City of Manchester. His non-votes show a lack of leadership.
Furthermore, his attacks on the teachers after the contract was ratified, that they should supply school supplies to needy children, are evidence that he has a blind spot when it comes to basic economics. It is the city of Manchester that needs to ensure that the basic needs of its children are met. In my experience, teachers are more than willing to go the extra mile to help kids, but Hirschmann seems to believe that the new contract obligates teachers to behave as a public charity to fill an economic shortfall his policies have done nothing to address.
Unfortunately, Hirschmann has a blind faith in the tax cap that, in the past, led him to oppose the reasonable financing of our city’s most pressing needs. This blind faith was behind Hirschmann’s decision to oppose the efforts of Board members to craft a compromise budget that exceeded the cap after the Mayor’s tax cap-compliant budget failed in 2014.
Last year’s tax cap override was needed to properly fund education and boost public safety. Yet, the tax cap-compliant budget proposed by Hirschmann was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Board for being poorly thought-out, incomplete and inadequate to meet our city’s pressing need to save our schools and protect our citizens.
Alderman Hirschmann is a good man who cares about our ward and our city but his priorities are out of whack. Long story short, his numbers don’t add up. Saying that a budget that inadequately finances education and public safety will help our schools and put more boots on the ground in the war against crime doesn’t make it so just because Hirschmann says so. I’m the kind of person who, when confronted with a problem, looks for a solution rooted in reality, not to an ideological compass cast in concrete which Hirschmann, with his unwavering adherence to the tax cap, seemingly uses to set his political bearings.
The savings generated by the teachers’ contract would offset the projected spike in costs that allegedly would have exceeded the tax cap. The city’s economist admitted he couldn’t properly project the financial limits imposed by the cap, tied as it is to a fickle consumer price index that could be substantially higher during the life of the contract. Hirschmann was flat-out wrong to oppose the contract. His opposition was based on his fidelity to maintaining the tax cap at all costs, both financial and human, rather than on common sense.
Leadership and common sense are what’s needed at City Hall, and sadly, Hirschmann’s performance as alderman from Ward 12 shows he’s fallen short on both counts. A business owner, Hirschmann would not expect his employees to kick back part of their income to the business after receiving a pay raise. His demand that the teachers do so is just plain wrong.
Alderman Hirschmann’s opposition to the contract, like his failed tax cap-compliant budget, is based on false economies generated by ideology, not reality. Ward 12 voters should send him back to school to pursue a degree in economics or, failing that, a refresher course in basic math. Voting my friend Keith off the Board will give him the time needed to seek that remedial education.
Joel Elber is a community activist who co-hosts the weekly TV show Manchsterdam on MPTS TV-23. A former educator, Joel earned a degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University and a degree in education from Salem State University. He has volunteered for a number of Manchester non-profits, including the New Horizons Food Pantry. Joel currently is a candidate for alderman from Ward 12.